Desperate times, desperate measures

Hong Kong’s annual Policy Address ritual is somewhat less mind-numbing than usual, taking place at a time when even officials are implicitly acknowledging that the one-time Pearl of the Orient is spiraling down the vortex to Perpetual Doo-Doo Land. Not that they’re going to do much about it.

For a quick summary, a former District Council covers several key features…

…local transport infrastructure plans? A disaster … more irrelevant paths to the outskirts of urban areas.

Full reports at HKFP. I’ll skip the stuff on housing – basically more plans to increase supply without addressing the big land-use policy mess, while seizing excuses to spend on infrastructure.

Most media stories focus on measures to attract (ie, reverse the outflow of) ‘talent’ (ie people). Since we can’t/won’t make the city a better place for everyone to live in, the emphasis is on targeting highly qualified workers in specific trendy-sounding industries by offering visa-free entry and even homes and subsidies in hub-zones. Are international tech professionals earning US$318,000 a year going to be lured by handouts? Or will they consider such desperate-sounding initiatives insulting?

The ideas don’t even make much sense. The plan to refund newcomers’ property stamp duty is simply an attempt to prop up real-estate prices. Let’s attract more people by making housing more expensive!

Reuters identifies scrapping dumb Covid policies as the obvious solution to the brain drain…

…Hong Kong’s mid-year population dipped 1.6% to 7.29 million – the steepest year-on-year drop on record. In contrast, rival banking and investment centre Singapore notched up a 3.4% increase over the same period.

…Hong Kongers are still subject to a myriad of rules that even health experts deem to be ineffective. That includes having to “self-monitor” for three days on arrival – the so-called “0+3” inbound travel arrangement – arbitrary caps of 12 people per table in a restaurant, six in a bar, 240 attendees in a banquet, and 30 in a tour group; indoor and outdoor mask mandates; enforced isolation for positive cases; and mandatory testing to go to schools, bars and other places.

(The government is counting on its forthcoming ‘financial summit’ for global bankers as a way to ‘prove’ Hong Kong is back. The word is that attendees will all be put in the Four Seasons hotel, and will still have to quarantine if they test positive. Unless – and I wish I could make up stuff this crazy – they have a private jet, in which case they can fly straight back to the disease-ridden international financial hub whence they came. With special transport arrangements to the airport.)

But, Reuters reminds us, it’s not just about replacing expats…

The city’s labour force is shrinking, with the 20- to 24-year-old cohort plunging an alarming 15% in the second quarter from a year earlier.

Which brings us to the other main theme of the Policy Address – relentless patriotic NatSec integration. A HK$60 million plan to strengthen national identity among kindergarten kids, tougher laws against insulting the flag, and what looks like the abolition of District Councils as the democratically elected local bodies we once knew. Plus the Article 23 NatSec law to increase penalties for sedition-type thought crimes, and yet more urging that we abandon the whole concept of ‘Hong Kong’ and embrace ‘Greater Bay Area’.

The UK gives residency rights to Hongkongers born after 1997.

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9 Responses to Desperate times, desperate measures

  1. Low Profile says:

    Carrie’s absurd East Lantau Tomorrow Major Environmental Disaster Project is still hanging in there, I see. Someone up north must love the idea.

  2. Chinese Netizen says:

    What if the (evil, meddling) outside “talent” were educated in schools that encouraged, mandated and valued free thinking, liberal studies and questioning authority at times? Hard to picture foreigners working side by side and having a chat about NIS or even China-Taiwan matters with their constantly-looking-over-their-shoulder local colleagues.
    What if some of the talents are in the mold of Mr Sam Bickett and willing to thrash some unidentified thug who chose to beat on a helpless kid only to find out said thug is a “Raptor” in civvies that had a bad day because his wife said he needed to get it up once in a while?

    Unless, of course by “outside talent” Lee means Russia, Belarus, North Korea and the various ‘Stans?

  3. Mary Melville says:

    On the bright side one could consider that many measures indicate that in many respects nothing has changed in Honkers. Property developers are still a protected species as it is construction, construction and more construction, chop down more trees at their coveted green belt locations, kick more ordinary f0lk out of their districts to facilitate gentrification and demonstrate that any decrease in property prices that would make homes for the hoi polloi more affordable will be ‘adjusted up’ via fiscal measures.
    Note no plans to weed out, as one financial pundit put it, the Lamborghini tenants from public housing and not a peep about measures to force slumlords to upgrade their properties. Many grassroots families want to stay put, just in better conditions. Why are the slumlords not prosecuted for the many failures to comply with existing ordinances for example? After all the rents they charge per square foot are on a par with what one would pay on the Peak.
    The policy address measures reflect the fact that consultation was limited to vested interests and with legislators looking to demonstrate that they are supporting the narrow focus of their constituents . The CE made a few media visits to ‘selected’ and no doubt well primed sub divided units but your average man in the street was never asked for his opinion.

  4. Onecyst says:

    On Monday, an English businessman was showing me the various apps he needed to comply with Covid entry requirements in a range of Asian countries. The apps allow him to upload the relevant documentation and speed up his processing through Immigration.
    He had no intention of traveling to Hong Kong in the future.
    Business Class was full on my flight from Frankfurt to Singapore.
    The businesswoman sitting next to me mentioned that her brother, who is working in Japan, was meant to be moving to Shanghai but had cancelled his plans. She was going to visit him after she completed her work in Singapore.
    It seems as though Hong Kong and China have been sidelined and more agile economies like Singapore are set to reap the benefits.

  5. Top Brass Monkeys says:

    Reuters expecting the same talent-free patriot asshats whose prior “great ideas to make things better” created the current exodus, to come up with obvious fixes to the problems they created themselves… well it’s very much an actual monkeys on typewriters scenario as per the experiment in Devon in 2002:

    ‘But after a month, the Sulawesi crested macaques had only succeeded in partially destroying the machine, using it as a lavatory, and mostly typing the letter “s”.’

    Come to think of it — replace the letter “s” with the phrase “Greater Bay Area” and that sounds eerily close to the policy address for the last several years.

  6. Joe Blow says:

    Brass Monkey, are you sure those were Sulawesi crested macaques and not “journalists” of the Alibaba Rag? Today, at the gym, I had the opportunity to look at the joyless experience that the once mighty SCMP had become (they canceled the horoscope) and I wondered why they simply don’t pull the plug altogether. This bowl of unsalted bland porridge of yesterday’s news serves no more purpose.

  7. Natasha Fatale says:

    “Worldwide hunt for talent – Candidate requirements”

    – Must be a native Cantonese or native Mandarin speaker

    – Must know when to keep one’s mouth shut in the face of lies, incompetence and petty malevolence

    All barbarians meeting the above requirements are welcome to apply.

  8. Steve Mc Garret says:

    Rozzer’s report

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